The memoir of Beryl Burton has been crowned as the 34th winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize (#SBOTY2022) – the most valuable literary award for sports writing.
Yesterday at BAFTA HQ, William Hill judges announced “Beryl Burton: In Search of Britain’s Greatest Athlete” as the winner of SBOTY 2022 prize, coming top of five finalists and beating a field of 158 competition entries.
Judges praised the ‘exhaustive research’ of writer Jeremy Wilson, whose ‘pulsating writing’ brought to life the remarkable achievements of unheralded female cycling legend Beryl Burton(OBE).
Racing during the 1960s and 1970s, Burton dominated cycling by winning over 90 domestic championships and seven world titles.
Of significance, Burton’s unbounded dedication to cycling saw her overcome limited professional support to break records beyond the sport’s boundaries. Most notably, in 1967, she set a new 12-hour time trial which exceeded all records (male/female) for two years.
Burton’s transformative achievements should have seen her garner the same global recognition as contemporary male cyclist Eddy Merckx.
William Hill Panel Chair Alyson Rudd commented: “Too few biographies focus on sportswomen, but this book helps to alter the balance. It is quite simply a tour de force and leaves the reader emotionally drained but also uplifted.
“Beryl deserved for her story to be told in style and Jeremy Wilson achieves that while also charting the more controversial elements of her extraordinary life.”
Wilson was praised for the depth of research of his book that brought to life the social challenges Burton faced while racing in the 1960s, interviewing family, friends and fellow competitors to tell an untold story of a cycling legend.
The 34th winning author, Wilson scooped a £30,000 prize and joins an impressive cast of previous SBOTY winners including last year’s champion Michael Holding, three-time winner Duncan Hamilton, as well as the likes of Nick Hornby, Brian Moore and Marcus Trescothick.Wilson commented: “I felt such a responsibility to tell this story, Beryl made history and delivered this incredible story and I was fortunate to tell it. I share this award with her.
“I followed this award in the 1980s and 90s and must have half the previous winners on my bookshelves. It’s inspired me to read sports books and write this one”